Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Alternative Science an oxymoron. If your idea is right, the mainstream scientific community will have no problem accepting it. In fact, they literally have to. Those are the rules of the scientific method; if your theory is repeatedly confirmed by experiment (and is not trivial or tautological, poorly defined, or otherwise fundamentally logically flawed) it will gain acceptance. Conversely, it is not closed-minded to claim that your theory is BS if you can't back it up. I am most adamant about this point when it comes to the dishonest claims of the proponents of "alternative medicine," but the point is general to science.

Sean at Cosmic Variance posted an excellent guide for aspiring alternative scientists.

Scientists can’t possibly pay equal attention to every conceivable hypothesis, they would literally never do anything else...So what does it take for the truly important discoveries to get taken seriously?

Happily, we are here to help. It would be a shame if the correct theory to explain away dark matter or account for the origin of life were developed by someone without a conventional academic position, who didn’t really take a lot of science classes in college and didn’t have a great math background but was always interested in the big questions, only for that theory to be neglected because of some churlish prejudice. So we would like to present a simple checklist of things that alternative scientists should do in order to get taken seriously by the Man. And the good news is, it’s only three items! How hard can that be, really? True, each of the items might require a nontrivial amount of work to overcome. Hey, nobody ever said that being a lonely genius was easy.
The three points, which he expounds upon, are these:

1. Acquire basic competency in whatever field of science your discovery belongs to.

2. Understand, and make a good-faith effort to confront, the fundamental objections to your claims within established science.

3. Present your discovery in a way that is complete, transparent, and unambiguous.

That doesn't sound so hard. There are also some good comments, although a crackpot unfortunately showed up and hijacked much of the thread with people attacking his crackpottery.